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  • May 19, 2022 13:03 | Anonymous

    By Ryan Riesinger, Executive Director, Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority President, Airport Association of North Dakota

    The 2022 FLY-ND Conference was held March 6-8, 2022, at the Fargo Delta Marriott hotel. It was awesome to be back in person and the event was a great success. I would like to provide a recap of the conference news and actions relative to the Airport Association of North Dakota (AAND).

    Every year at our annual AAND Business Meeting, we elect Officers (President, Vice-President, and Secretary/Treasurer) and five District Directors who, along with the Past President, serve as the Board of AAND. This year, we made a conscious effort to bring balance to the Board with more representation from our General Aviation (GA) airports. I am happy to report we have two new members on our Board and both of them are from GA airports – we welcome Mike Nehring of Mohall and Andy Tibert of Grafton. Our new Board members are as follows:

    Ryan Riesinger, President, Grand Forks (I)

    Anthony Dudas, Vice-President, Williston (I)

    Jordan Dahl, Secretary/Treasurer, Fargo (I)

    Matthew Remynse, Past President, Bismarck (I)

    Mike Nehring, District 1, Mohall

    Maria Romanick, District 2, Minot (I)

    Andy Tibert, District 3, Grafton

    Ron Lundquist, District 4, Kindred (I)

    Kelly Braun, District 5, Dickinson (I)

    It was also discussed how important it is for airports of all sizes to join AAND, engage, attend the conference and activities, participate in legislative action items, and be a part of the discussion. We had separate Roundtable discussion meetings for Commercial Service and GA airports – this worked well and will be continued at future conferences, to foster conversation and sharing of best practices. Together, we have had many successes legislatively and in advancing important projects and promoting aviation. If you have not already paid your 2022 AAND dues, invoices will be going out soon. Please consider joining, so we can make the Association even stronger.

    AAND members voted to continue sponsoring the Gerald K. Olson Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,500. This scholarship is awarded to a current University of North Dakota Airport Management student and is a wonderful way to remember Jerry.

    We also awarded $1,000 for an educational Airport Lighting Maintenance Seminar, to be held in Grand Forks in September 2022. We know sending personnel to far-away training seminars can be expensive, so AAND has been supporting in-state training classes, like this one, for several years. I encourage you to have a member who performs maintenance at your airport attend this seminar. 

    Thank you to the 2022 Fly-ND Conference Site Selection Committee, the ND Aviation Association, and all sponsors and attendees who made the Conference a great success! 

    Keep ‘em  flying!

  • May 18, 2022 17:12 | Anonymous

    Several Minot and area pilots were honored on March 6 with awards for participating in the “Fly North Dakota Airports” Passport Program.

    The passport program presents awards to pilots for flying to airports in the state as well as attending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seminars and visiting the two North Dakota air museums.

    Thomas Sando and Jeff Darling, both of Williston, were among pilots presented with bronze awards for visiting at least 30 airports and attending one safety seminar. These pilots received a polo shirt embroidered with the ND Flying Legacy logo.

    Patrick Haye, Minot, Steven Jensen, Tioga, Ari Johnson, Watford City, and Steve Martens, Stanley, were among pilots to achieve during 2021 the most prestigious gold award level award. They received a leather flight jacket embroidered with the ND Flying Legacy logo in addition to the bronze and silver awards. This prestigious accomplishment is achieved when visiting all 89 public use airports in North Dakota, visiting both ND air museums and attending at least three FFA Safety seminars. These pilots join 78 others who have completed the passport program in previous years, making a total of 91 total pilots who have achieved the gold award level to date.

    Seventeen pilots from across the state were honored at the March 6 event.

    The awards presentation was held at the Fargo Air Museum in Fargo, in conjunction with the N.D. Aviation Association, Fly-ND Conference. Presenting the awards were Kyle Wanner, executive director, and Mike McHugh, Aviation Education coordinator of the ND Aeronautics Commission, and Justin Weninger of the ND Aviation Association.

    The program is sponsored by the ND Department of Commerce’s Tourism Division in partnership with the Aeronautics Commission, the Airport Association of ND and the ND Aviation Association.

    Submitted Photo (L-R) Kyle Wanner, ND Aeronautics Commission; Steve Martens, Stanley; Robert Sprague & Ethan Sprague, both of Courtenay; Bob Simmers, Bismarck; and Justin Weninger, NDAA, are shown at the Fargo Air Museum. Steve Martens, Robert Sprague and Ethan Sprague were among pilots honored for taking part in the “Fly ND Airports” Passport Program.

    Reprinted with permission from The Minot Daily News.

  • May 18, 2022 17:08 | Anonymous

    The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) is nearing the completion of our triennial Pavement Condition Index (PCI) Study update, which is completed in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As part of the study, an online Airport Pavement Management System (APMS) is developed to evaluate the current pavement condition and predict future conditions based on the PCI. The APMS is designed to meet FAA requirements of Advisory Circular No: 150/5380-7B – Airport Pavement Management Program (PMP); however, it is customized with unique features by NDAC and developed by a consultant.

    North Dakota comprises 89 public airports, of which 72 are paved and assessed as part of the study. The cumulative area of all airside pavement at these airports is approximately 60 million square feet. The current pavement split by airport classification is about 42% for general aviation and 58% for commercial service airports.

    The APMS uses the PCI information to develop a maintenance program and help identify the most cost-effective method and recommended timing of rehabilitation projects. The program allows the NDAC, FAA, and airport management to plan and budget for the required maintenance needed to extend the service life of existing pavements. The PCI information and maintenance program also provides us with critical information to assist in updating 10-year individual and statewide airport Capital 

    Improvement Plans (CIP).

    In the review process of the PCI data, a few trends were noted. One trend was the percentage of asphalt pavements with raveling. Raveling is the dislodging of coarse aggregate on the surface of asphalt pavement. These pavements may show signs of aging and hardening, known as weathering, and result in loss of fine aggregates. Fine aggregate aid in preventing raveling. Together, these distress types may result in the production of Foreign Object Debris (FOD), increasing the potential for aircraft damage. In our region of the country, pavement goes through harsh cold, which is a significant contributor to aggregate loss. The total pavement area with raveling rose from 44% in 2018 to 55% in 2021. This increase of nearly three million square feet is significant. We continue to work to identify solutions to reduce these impacts and further prevent these distress types from creating systematic issues and maintaining safe pavements.

    Some may think airport work in North Dakota is slowing down, due to a significant effort over the last decade to rebuild and expand infrastructure across North Dakota, largely on the state’s western side. The fact is that work continues, and project needs have not gone away but instead have shifted or changed. In an unlimited funding scenario, the state’s airports would need an estimated $250 million over the next five years to maintain and rebuild all of the pavement projects identified in the PCI study. This does not include other types of projects, such as pavement expansion projects, building projects, or drainage projects. This affirms that the state has an ongoing challenge in prioritizing its projects within the system.

    The included graphic shows the PCI distribution of the 60 million square feet of pavement and the changes in the system that have occurred since the last inspection in 2018. The area-weighted PCI value of the entire airport system is a 77 (on a scale of 0-100), similar to the 2018 and 2015 analyses. Overall, the results show that our state does a great job in maintaining and prioritizing pavement maintenance and rehabilitation. The NDAC will continue to prioritize and emphasize the importance of good shovel-ready projects.

    We look forward to working with the FAA and our airports to utilize this data fully and will continue to strive to lead the country and set a strong example through our efforts to preserve and update our airport system.

    For more information on the PCI study and to use the interactive database, please visit the following link:

    Nels Lund, Airport Planner

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission 

    701-328-9650 |

  • May 18, 2022 17:01 | Anonymous

    By The Staiger Consulting Group

    This time of year always brings renewed optimism and excitement for me. The windows are open, the kids are outside until the last possible moment before bedtime, and I’m cleaning and organizing like crazy. With each new season, I always appreciate and reflect on how far I’ve come and how things transition with the changing of the seasons. 

    We have now had a successful in-person Fly-ND Conference behind us, and meetings and events are returning to normal. I am reflecting on how wonderful it is to be together in person at a conference, at a family gathering, or a sporting event. This year’s Fly-ND Conference was held in Fargo, ND, at the Delta Hotel, and I was so excited to be together and interact with so many aviation people throughout the state. The sessions, exhibitors, and events were stellar. The site-committee and board of directors did a great job organizing and planning everything. 

    One thing I did notice was the in-depth conversations I heard about or was privileged to participate. So many people were engaged and connecting at a deeper level with others in attendance. I’m not sure if you are noticing this too, but I’m seeing it in other places as well. Maybe in our post-pandemic world, we can more easily value the importance of these relationships, seize on, and appreciate the opportunities to be together in the same space. The Fly-ND Conference allowed us to do that and I can’t wait to see what our upcoming events hold too. 

    The NDAA site committee is planning the August 19, 2022, Fly-ND Summerfest event, which will be held in conjunction with the airshow in Williston on August 20. The event will be the perfect occasion for fun, networking, and even more interactions with friends and colleagues. Details will be released soon, so mark your calendars and plan to attend. Heck, plan to stay for the weekend! 

    We are also preparing for the next Career Expo on October 6, 2022, in Fargo, ND. This is a great opportunity to connect students and prospective employers in any sector of the aviation industry. If you haven’t had a chance to participate in past Career Expos, I encourage you to start now! There are many ways to participate. Sign up for a free booth and showcase your part of the industry, maybe volunteer to help organize or sponsor the event, or you can contribute to the scholarship program. We offer several scholarships that still need sponsors. Check out our website for more details:

    It’s been fascinating to see how much has changed over the past few years and how we can accomplish things differently now. Our eyes have been opened to new ways of doing things and what is possible. We have been challenged to think outside the box, and it will be interesting to see what sticks and what carries forward into the next season for us, both personally and as an organization.

    Just as I was working on this article, my cell and internet service mysteriously dropped. After my initial discomfort about being disconnected, I thought to myself, what perfect timing. This is the time to be fully present to what’s in front of me and what’s most important – like relationships, reaffirming our commitments, and finding our passions. Surprisingly, my disconnection led to more connections. So, welcome back; I look forward to reconnecting with many of you at one of the awesome upcoming Fly-ND events we are planning. I truly hope to see you there! 

    Stacy & Mike Krumwiede


  • May 18, 2022 16:51 | Anonymous

    Pigeons and Eagles

    August 19 • XWA • Williston, ND

    Save the Date for Summerfest and the Williston Air Show

    Sporting Clay Shoot, Golf Event and Social

    Celebrate summer and aviation through networking and meetings!

    Raise money for scholarships

    August 20 2nd Annual Williston Airshow

    Enjoy local food vendors and family-friendly activities before taking your eyes to the sky with world renowned airshow performers!

    Learn more about the Williston Airshow at

    Bring your Tent

    Camping on the airport! 

    Fly-in the night before and pilots can camp in a tent under the wing of their airplane.

  • May 18, 2022 16:46 | Anonymous

    During the Fly_ND Conference in March, I had conversations with a few attendees interested in bringing a high school aviation program to their community. How we can make that happen looks different in each community, but there are opportunities. Hopefully, you had a chance to attend the session at the conference on this topic; I will briefly summarize some of the opportunities available. It is important to note that all communities are unique and rarely will the process look the same in two communities. 

    First, no matter how big or small your community is, there are currently opportunities for students in your area to enroll in high school aviation programs. The North Dakota Center for Distance Education offers online aviation courses, which are available to every student in the state. In addition, the Central Regional Area Career and Technical Center (CRACTC) offers distance education. The CRACTC’s program offers more instructor interaction and opportunities for field trips. This program is not asynchronous, so students do need to enroll during an enrollment period. 

    Looking beyond a distance education option, if a school is able to bring enough students together to offer a class, there are opportunities for in-person aviation instruction. Though there are other options, one free curriculum seeing a lot of traction nationally is provided by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA.) This curriculum is designed to be taught by a teacher, who may not have an aviation background, but is excited about aerospace. AOPA has put a lot of time and money into developing this curriculum and I have heard many positive stories about its use. 

    Finally, the other options: likely the best student experience, but most difficult to establish, is a full Career and Technical Education (CTE) program teaching aviation. This requires some dedicated resources, such as qualified staff and classroom space. There are also some other options for instruction, such as integrating the curriculum into other classes. For instance, an agriculture class may want to teach unmanned aircraft as a part of their precision agriculture curriculum, or an engineering class may teach aeronautics or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as a part of their curriculum. There are many resources out there for elementary classes as well. EAA recently released the Aeroeducate Program, specifically for K-8 classrooms. 

    Regardless of the best fit for your community, I am encouraging any teacher, counselor, administrator, or school board member to consider attending the professional development opportunities available this summer. These seminars will be offered:

    June 6-7, 2022, in Grand Forks, ND

    June 8-9 in Fargo, ND

    In the weeks following these seminars, there will be a variety of cities throughout the state concentrating on UAS and drone racing. For more information, contact me and I can provide all of the details about the events and how to register. I look forward to having many more aviation opportunities for our students in the coming years.

    Mike McHugh, Aviation Education Coordinator 

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • May 18, 2022 16:39 | Anonymous

    If there was a lesson to be learned over the events of the past two years, I would contend that many of us have come to realize the incredible importance and value of human interactions and real-life experiences, all of which aviation helps to provide to us. Aviation brings people together. 

    I have been asked many times, particularly in the initial stages of the pandemic, if aviation would ever see a full comeback, due to the virtual capabilities now available for both personal and business interactions. My response has always been the same: though virtual technology has incredible benefits and uses, it doesn’t and never will (in my opinion) replace the tangible value that is provided from in-person connections and an exposure to new adventures and opportunities. Positive experiences and relationships are also imperative for strong emotional and mental health. Those who escape into the “metaverse” will always be missing out from the benefits of cultivating meaningful relationships and embarking on impactful adventures. Stated another way, the benefits that aviation is designed to provide for people has never been more valuable.

    Our goal at the state level of government is to work with all of you to grow and improve the standard of living within our communities by enhancing access to the world of aviation. Here at the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC), we believe in working with and empowering our local community leaders to make informed decisions that have positive impacts on aviation. The public-use airport facilities around the state of North Dakota (all 89 of them) are your airports, and we are excited to partner with our local groups to help ensure that they have the support that they need to continue to grow, maintain, and advocate for those facilities. 

    Local leadership and advocacy efforts are also critical to ensure the success of an airport. I can assure you that the most successful facilities around the state are the ones with active community leaders that understand and appreciate the benefits that aviation provides. If you are looking for ways to get involved within your airport community, there are opportunities aplenty. Whether it’s through local volunteer efforts, serving on an airport authority, or joining a statewide aviation advocacy group such as the North Dakota Aviation Association, there are many ways to help support aviation on a local level.

    An important event that occurs each spring that allows free flowing ideas and networking opportunities in the field of aviation is our “Fly North Dakota” aviation conference. I want to personally thank everyone that came to participate in the event this past spring, as it was a great feeling to once again participate in a large in-person venue that gathered aviators from all areas of the state to discuss current and future aviation related issues. At the conference, we were also able to recognize 17 individuals that have made achievements in the “Fly North Dakota Airports” Passport Program, induct Leo Jostad into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, and provide multiple other awards for excellence in aviation that are showcased in this issue of the Fly-ND Quarterly

    I also want to mention that the NDAC staff recently met to discuss and vote on our team values. If you ever have the opportunity to work with us, we hope that you are able to experience and see these attributes continually at work for aviation in North Dakota. The values that are integral to our team include: knowledge, collaboration, reliability, commitment, and safety. We are also excited to get out of the office this summer to conduct airport site visits and to learn more about the challenges and opportunities that are faced by the aviation community. Please contact us if you are interested in meeting with us or inviting us to your airport, business, or community for a visit.

    Lastly, I am also excited to see multiple fly-in’s being planned throughout the state over the next few months as aviation is further utilized to bring people together. Be sure to check out the upcoming aviation events page on our website at and please let us know if you have an activity that you would like us to list on this page as well. 

    We are truly fortunate to have an incredible aviation community in North Dakota. During the next few months, I hope you are able to have a safe and enjoyable experience, as you take in everything that our great state has to offer.

    Wishing you smooth flying, 

    Kyle Wanner, Director

    North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    701-328-9650 |

  • May 18, 2022 16:02 | Anonymous

    On March 6-8, 2022, the North Dakota Aviation Association (NDAA) held its annual Fly-ND Conference in Fargo, ND. This was the return to the in-person format, after the virtual event held the year prior. It was great to again bring all of us together and enjoy each other’s company and camaraderie. 

    The conference started with a fun Ice Breaker Social at the Fargo Air Museum, which included the induction of this year’s Passport Award Winners. We had a number of great presenters throughout Monday and Tuesday, with many notable sessions. Monday night was the Exhibitor Night, with a number of fun door prizes given out, including a Garmin Watch donated by Garmin. 

    On Tuesday night, we held the Hall of Fame Banquet at the Fargo Air Museum, which was a departure from typically holding it at the conference hall. This was a fun venue to hear and share the stories of the night; the event was emceed by local television personality, Dan Michaels. We congratulated Grand Forks International Airport as the 2022 Commercial Airport of the Year, and Hillsboro Municipal Airport as the 2022 General Aviation Airport of the year. The North Dakota Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) handed out a number of scholarships to student winners. Vance Emerson, from the FAA, was in attendance to hand out three diamond maintenance awards, as well as the Charles Taylor Award and the Master Pilot Award, both to Rich Altendorf. 

    The main event of the evening was to welcome Leo Jostad into the North Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame. We were treated to the showing of Leo’s Hall of Fame video, and then an interview of Leo by Dan Michaels. This was truly an inspirational evening watching Leo’s dedication to aviation. Congratulations again to Leo on his selection. 

    It was great to see and talk to all of you again in person, and I cannot wait to see you all in Bismarck next year!

    Justin Weninger, Chairman

    North Dakota Aviation Associaton

  • March 16, 2022 13:05 | Anonymous

    By Janell Pederson, Licensing Specialist, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission

    This spring will be the first opportunity for operators to apply for an aerial applicator license specifically for unmanned aircraft. North Dakota Administrative Law 6-02-02 has been updated and now includes requirements and safety standards for unmanned aircraft operators to provide aerial application in North Dakota. 

    All aerial applicators, both manned and unmanned, are required to meet safety standard criteria and receive licensure from our office. The license fee for either of the aerial applicator licenses will remain at $200. A manned operator that also meets the criteria of the unmanned operator license will need to complete a separate application to be granted that license. However, an additional fee will not be assessed.

    Operators of all unmanned aircraft used for aerial application must hold FAA Part 137 (Agriculture Operator Certification) and hold a current air/ground core pesticide certification from North Dakota State University (NDSU). All unmanned pilots must also hold an FAA remote pilot certificate, attend annual safety training, and have attended an approved training program or have received at least ten hours of direct ground-supervised solo flights at operations loads while conducting aerial application. All unmanned aircraft used for aerial application must also be listed on the license, have a maximum operating weight of five-hundred pounds or less, and have paid an aircraft registration fee with our office. 

    It is also the operator’s responsibility to ensure that any chemicals being disbursed from the aircraft are legal and meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and North Dakota Department of Agriculture guidelines. 

    If you have any specific questions on this new license, visit the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission (NDAC) website at or give us a call at (701) 328-9560.

  • March 16, 2022 13:01 | Anonymous

    The first woman from her tribe to pursue commercial aviation at UND, Elspeth Thomas doesn’t intend to be the last.

    It took a while for Elspeth Thomas to determine what she wanted out of college, but she knew it when she saw it.

    Sitting in the cockpit of an airplane was all it took for her to make up her mind.

    With the flight controls at arm’s reach, staring at the flat expanse of earth and its horizon below, Thomas sensed at that moment where her ambitions and her UND major belonged.

    “I just knew it was exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

    And, in making that decision, she likely became the first woman from the Standing Rock Lakota Tribe to pursue a commercial aviation degree at UND.

    Miracles of flight

    As Thomas tells the tale, her UND aviation story began in Noren Hall, where she’d lived on campus since coming to UND in 2016. Noren is a residence hall popular with students in the aviation program.

    “I was trying a bunch of different classes at the time, and I ended up making a lot of friends in aviation,” Thomas said. “And one day, I went flying with one of those friends, and I was in the front seat.”

    As the small aircraft hummed above UND, Grand Forks and the Red River Valley, she experienced life at the controls, if only for a moment.

    That exposure to the miracle of flight likely brought forth long-forgotten memories, based on her childhood experiences and fascination with flying.

    “Both of my parents and a couple other family members were in the Air Force, and I was exposed to aviation at a young age,” Thomas told UND Today.

    Though she has always called Grand Forks home, her mother was born and raised on the Standing Rock Reservation, and Thomas has been an enrolled member of the tribe since birth.

    Her parents, though not on the flight line themselves, were stationed at bases in Cavalier and Grand Forks through much of Thomas’ childhood.

    She recalled a time in elementary school when the students were asked to dress like people who inspired them. Skipping the standard fare of superheroes and sports stars, Thomas dressed as trailblazing pilot Amelia Earhart.

    “So, in a way, flying was always in the back of my mind, but I never thought I could actually go out and do it,” she said. “It wasn’t until I got to college that I thought this could be something I could pursue as a career.”

    First-generation aviation student

    Of course, majoring in commercial aviation – especially at the start of one’s junior year, as in Thomas’ case – is a lot more complicated than just checking a box. But from her experiences and friendships, Thomas understood the gravity of her choice and took time to think it through.

    The result was taking a full semester off to do her own research. Thomas spent hours reading things online, talking to advisors and doing what she could to understand the financial and academic implications, she said.

    “I really wanted to think about my decision and see what it entailed, which turned out to be a lot,” Thomas said with a laugh.

    Today, she’s certified as a commercial pilot with multi-instrument ratings, and she’s working on her certification to become a flight instructor. Thomas estimates that she’ll be graduating by summer 2022. In other words, “I’m very close to being done,” she said.

    Regarding her status of being “first” from Standing Rock, or among the few Native American women to go into aviation at UND, Thomas said she has thought about it, but knows that – despite the challenges she has faced – going into the program would have been a lot more difficult if she had come from a reservation community.

    “Having grown up in Grand Forks, going to the schools here, it wasn’t a big transition coming to UND,” Thomas said. “But I could see how going from life on the reservation to pursuing an aviation degree would be a totally different experience.”

    “Even for me, being a first-generation aviation student, I don’t have parents who are airline pilots, which is the case for many other students,” she continued. “That type of background turns out to be a valuable guide in knowing the right people to talk to and finding the right resources. So, in that way, there can be so many challenges and obstacles to overcome.”

    Also, the fact that Thomas is a woman enrolled in commercial aviation is almost as singular as the fact that she’s Native American. Women pilots represent only 6 percent of the total pilot population, according to Women in Aviation International.

    At UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, which trains students for not only the cockpit but also other careers in aviation, women make up about 15 percent of the students, according to enrollment data.

    As a result, starting out in the program was difficult, due to sitting in classes with only one or two other women in some cases, Thomas said. But as time went on, she made more friends, and the feelings of difference became more trivial as the litany of aviation “unknowns” went away with experience.

    In addition, many of Thomas’ female classmates also are first-generation aviation students, and those peers are among her most important resources on campus, she said. She’s taken an active role in a number of student organizations, including the UND Indian Association, American Indians in Science & Engineering, Women in Aviation and the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals.

    Thomas notes that while she is not Black, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals has rapidly grown and expanded its umbrella to represent other minorities at UND Aerospace. It has become a place for minority students “to come together and have a unified voice,” she said.

    “What you come to realize is that the people you meet come from all over the country and the world to fly here, and they all have different perspectives on life,” Thomas said. “So, even though I’m one of the few Native Americans in the program, I feel as though I’m among a diverse group of women in the field.”

    Sharing in success

    Besides building the flight hours she’ll need for her career in the clouds, Thomas is determined to do right by her tribal community, she said. That means advocating for Native Americans who are similarly interested in aviation careers.

    “In our Lakota culture, and likely other Native nations, the expectation is to give back to your people and your community,” Thomas said. “I want to see more Native people in this field, and I’m always going to try to inspire young people in my community – to open that door for them.”

    With most of her mother’s family living on the Standing Rock Reservation, Thomas makes the five-hour journey to visit when she can.

    “I wasn’t raised in a traditional Lakota home, but my mom always made sure that we are connected to our family, community and culture,” Thomas said. “And within that community, certain values such as humility, respect, compassion and generosity have shaped my decisions as a student pilot and as a person in general.”

    What that means for her career, she said, is that personal success is to be shared with others. The success of one is the success of the community, in other words; and, in return, she will never be short of support.

    “People have heard about how I’m pursuing this career, and I’ll be approached by people I met a long time ago and they congratulate me and say how proud they are,” Thomas said, smiling. “It’s talked about as if I’m doing this for all of us, for the entire community.

    “That’s what I think about and feel when I go in for my exams and my flight tests. Like, ‘OK, I have all of these people behind me to do this.’ It’s a source of strength that I have to overcome challenges and succeed.”

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